Gov. Rick Scott signed the first substantive bill of the session Monday, creating a program that will waive out-of-state tuition fees for military veterans.
The “Florida G.I. Bill” also will connect veterans to potential employers, and pump money into continuing education and industry certification programs for active service members.
Scott, who served in the Navy, said he hoped the legislation would make Florida “the most military-friendly state” in the nation.
The proposal (HB 7015) won unanimous support in both chambers in March.
Lawmakers were particularly proud of the tuition waiver program, which is named in memory of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
Under current law, veterans who are not Florida residents must pay out-of-state rates, which can be four times what residents pay.
The measure is expected to cost the state $11.7 million.
The new law also:
One provision has been controversial: language encouraging military base commanders to work with the state education commissioner to create new charter schools.
Some educators are concerned that military commanders will be able to circumvent local school boards to establish the semi-private schools.
Last year, the Hillsborough County School Board challenged a charter school looking to open on MacDill Air Force Base. The school’s governing board later withdrew its proposal.
At a bill signing ceremony at the National Guard Armory in Panama City, military officials had high praise for the legislation.
“The support our military has received from our elected leaders in Florida is at the highest level in my memory,” said Major Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw, Jr., of the Florida National Guard.